14 Ways to Demonstrate “I Love You” to Your Son

Rough housing, exploring nature, and testing limits – Joseph explains the ways in which some men show love to their sons.

Jennifer L. W. Fink’s article, 14 Ways to Tell Your Son “I Love You” offers excellent examples of how women show love. Here’s how I think a man does it:


Photo: Flickr/creativedc

1) Get him to work in the yard with you. Share your work with him, letting him know that his input is valuable and that his choices and actions affect the world around him: that he has agency.

2) Teach him about the birds and the bees (literally). Explore wildlife. Teach him their eating and mating and living and dying habits. Teach him to identify animals, and what role they play in the real world.

3) Raise animals with him, whether it be worms, or chickens or beetles or fish or snakes. This not only teaches him the cycles of life, but to appreciate what the world outside of a hyper-clean sanitary plastic-covered world looks like. It teaches him long-term thinking and quite frankly, it’s fun!
4) Be athletic with him. Roughhouse with him. Play physical games. It can be as simple as “race you to the end of the dock” to “let’s see what you can lift”. This teaches a boy to surpass his current physical state. Teach him the importance of being able to run, climb, lift, push, crawl, and swim. This will teach him that a skinned knee is nothing more than that. He will learn to not allow pain to dominate. This teaches him his current limitations and how to surpass them, thus creating body confidence, which may translate to his being a good worker, dancer or lover.

5) Teach him to use tools. This engenders self-trust by creating competence, teaching him that he can handle physical matter. It also teaches him that he is trusted for his ability to learn and that he has the ability, with proper teaching, to be left alone and create. You can also use this opportunity to teach him about aesthetics, how to create beautiful things, and well as problem solving.

6) Teach him how to fight (age-appropriate). A boy who has no ability to respond, or is unprepared to face a bully will be left with a gnawing sense of self-doubt in a world that expects him to be able to handle himself. Teach him the habits of humans, when to talk, when to fight and when to egress. When a boy has options before conflict occurs, he’ll know that he can handle it.

7) Teach him practical skills: How to grow food, store it and prepare it; how to interact with people; how to fix his bike; how to use math in daily life; how to think critically; how to dig a hole or cut down a tree; how to nail boards together or fit pipes together or how to piece together simple electrical systems. Praise him legitimately for actual accomplishments, patiently coach him though his rough spots.

8) Go collecting junk on the beach or in the forest. Go dumpster diving. This is not only a fun, but can teach him about being resourceful, thinking outside of the box, to be aware of the opportunities that surround him. Get him to think of a neat project you can do together and go hunting for the pieces, rather than buying them.

9) This one I stole from Richard Branson’s parents and John Taylor Gatto: give him physical challenges. “Go deliver this to Aunt Jane by bicycle 10 miles away. Make sure you’re back by 3 o’clock.”

10) Observe what he’s naturally good at and what he’s not so good at. Help him stretch his sense of self and of what he is legitimately capable of doing, and what his legitimate limits are. Teach him about the real world, and the impact of his actions on it, relative to his ability to learn. Take the time to have fun with him and explore this.

11) Make sure that you shut everything down at supper time, and that that time is used for family togetherness. Make it part of the routine where everyone in the family must learn one thing and share it a supper time. When he speaks, actually listen to him, actively question him.

12) Find a nice quiet place, a forest, a lake, a dock or a park and just sit and be with the boy. Eat ice cream and stare at the clouds or the stars. Often men bond though silence as much as they do though speech or action.

13) Be physically affectionate with him. Pick him up; carry him on your shoulders. Put your arm around his shoulders, scruff up his hair.

14) Rather than teach him self-esteem directly, teach him to live a life that he can be proud of and enjoy living.

The best thing you can do to show love to your boy is to be there and be involved with him, all while teaching him how to handle the world. He’ll thank you for it as an adult.

Photo: Flickr/Scott Schram

Lead photo: Flickr/roland

About Joseph

Joseph lives in Canada, works in the tech industry, loves creating habitats for critters and works to make a better world by doing his best to better himself and bring those results to his family and local community.


  1. George Philip says:

    Reminds of a Mark Twain quote, he has so many astute ones:

    “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

  2. Of course its not important to do these things regardless of what gender your child is. after all if its a girl she just needs to know how to cook and clean and look after kids, and if your kid is turns out to be trans you can just force a square peg in a round hole or disown them as soon as they come out.

    • Now why would you say such a thing? Is there a problem with focusing on positive things a man can do with his boy on The Good Man’s Project?

      • Yes, Joseph, there is a problem. The advice barely mentions music, art, reading, writing, homework, cooking — or any number of other things that some fathers may offer to their children. It’s all math, home repair, and physical challenges — as if those are (to quote the author) how “men communicate.” So, what, reading to your son at night or teaching him a musical instrument or helping him learn to cook or sew aren’t “how men” bond?

        These are all great tips, but they are not an exhaustive list and they are not necessarily divisible by gender. Kids of either sex might want some mix of things on this list and parents of either sex (or extended family, coaches, teachers, etc) might be the ones to offer it. The point is (as the author says in point 10) to observe what your son is good at and what his weak spots are — and to tailor what you offer him to who he is. And the same for daughters.

        • @aintstudyingyou
          You said: “These are all great tips, but they are not an exhaustive list”.

          I refer you to the title of the article.

          Is your problem with the article that it wasn’t written as encyclopedic tome? Or is it that I focused exclusively on men and boys?

          Men and boys are worthy of being spoken of on their own, you know; it is not necessary to refer to females in all subjects. Men are good. Boys are good. Men and boys are good. And we can talk about men and boys in a positive light, without having to ask permission from or include women.

          NB: You will note, incidentally, that I did in fact refer to preparing food.

          So what is the problem with focusing positive attention on men and boys on The Good Men project?

          • It’s a simple but important point: “Men and boys” include fathers and sons who do very different things than the ones you insist are the way “men” bond. If you had simply said “ways I show love to my son” or “ways a math/science/sports Dad can show love to a similarly-minded son” — no problem. I think that’s why the editors of the blog changed your term “how a man does it” to “how some fathers show love.” Therein lies the only problem.

            You replied to me that you want to speak of “men and boys on their own” — to do so, you would have to have a list of activities that rely on a list of traits that all males and only males possess. That’s why commenter Jade and I both mentioned daughters, to point out that you couldn’t possible prove that the traits and activities are shared by all men and only men. Drawing a Venn diagram would clear this one up nicely.

            No one is bashing this kind of father, we’re just saying a bit more awareness of other types of fathers and children could clarify the phrasing (and allow for all kinds of fathers to be celebrated, not just one kind.)

            Is your goal simply to draw positive attention to one kind of fathering? If so, great. but to celebrate that mode of father-son bonding it isn’t necessary or positive to define all other kinds out of the category of “how men” do it.

            • I’ll be frank with you. I think your arguments are silly and trivial. The nit-picking is placing an emphasis on specificity that approaches veiled political correctness.

              You come very close to straw-manning my arguments each time you “misquote” them.

              My perception from your and others’ responses is very simply this: disgruntlement with the fact that I did not explicitly mention females, and having explicitly brought it out in the open, in order to not admit it, you are now in a position of having to deflect by criticizing the literary style of the article rather than it’s simple substance.

              Let’s backup and get back in touch with reality. This article is a fluff-piece that was born from a comment-reply to another article. It is not a scholarly handbook on gender ethics. It’s a nice little list of things that men can do to demonstrated love to their boys.

              You are free to disagree with it. You are free to not appreciate it. Some people have said that they appreciated it, and that’s good enough for me. I’m pleased that they did.

              I reiterate: Men and boys a valuable subject on their own, not requiring the inclusion or permission of women. Nor does an article on subject require the approval of others as being perfectly grammatically accurate and gender-balanced.

              Unless you have issue with the actual content of the article, rather than it’s literary merits, I don’t see the need to pursue this any further.

              I have one mission: to promote that which is positive about boys and men. The way that I do that is to speak exclusively of boys and men in a positive light. If you feel left out, submit your own article to the editors. If they consider it worthwhile, I’m sure that they’ll be more than pleased to publish it.

              • It’s rather strange that you keep going back to your conspiracy theory that this is all a politically-correct witch hunt to get you for not mentioning women. I’ll repeat that the issue is that you present a very restricted list of what men can do for their sons and justify those restrictions by saying you want to “celebrate” that which belongs “exclusively” to men and boys. I’m actually rather surprised that you avoid that aspect of the matter–with which I began and which I repeated–in favor of your pet theory that feminists are persecuting you. It would seem that you would want to widen the celebration of fathers to those who help their children with “music, art, reading, writing, homework”–some of the examples I offered in my first post. Whether you mention girls and women or not has never been the sole issue. Your defining what you think is “girly” out of what belongs to “men and boys” and should be depicted in a positive light is.

                • Apparently the previous comment was not approved. Let me recapitulate:

                  1) Your comment is mendacious, loaded with inflammatory language, erroneous presumptions, factual and logical errors.

                  2) Your questions have been included in my previous responses.

                  3) Once again, you are free to dislike or disagree with the article, as you are free to write one and submit it yourself.

                  I have one mission: to promote that which is positive about boys and men. The way that I do that is to speak exclusively of boys and men in a positive light.

                  Thanks for listening.

  3. Thanks Joe, I’m going to book mark this for future refernce and reminder.

    Usually there’s a lot of hooey gendered advice on this site, but this is good advice for my daughters, cause I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking they were special snowflakes.

  4. OMG! I’ve done something right???

    Not kidding…I really needed to read this today. Thank you!

    • “OMG! I’ve done something right???”

      Isn’t that nice to hear? If I had one tip for all people, it would be to make a point of frequently providing positive evidence-based feedback to men. “I love you” is nice. “Wow, that was an awesome meal!” is better. “I love it when you [insert something the person just did]” is wonderful. I’ve noticed something about my best girlfriends: they managed me though positive feedback. Bitching and complaining just made me resentful. Positive feedback made me want to repeat the action.

      Negative feedback is cheap and produces no long-term positive results. Positive feedback builds the person up, strengthens them, creates loyalty, joy and frankly, makes them more pleasant to be around too!

      So if you see things that you’ve done right, all I can say is “Well done, brother!”. Good on you.

  5. This is great, such a touching article. I’m only 18 but just thinking of each of these tips critically, I feel like I’ve taken my father for granted. I’m selfish, always complaining, “Why does it have to be what you want to do? Why don’t we do something I want to do?!” Reading this from a different perspective has showed me how hard my father tried to bond with me and how much I pushed him away. I thought he didn’t know better but in actuality, he knew/knows more than I ever will. Luckily for me, He’s still young (but of course getting older as the years go, as I grow too) and I still have time to make up for my ways. Thank you for this!

    • My mother and I have a running joke: When I was a child, she was the smartest woman in the world. When I became a teenager, she lost all of her IQ points. As I grow older, she gets smarter and smarter. Funny how that works 🙂


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